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Trolley 'Best Thing Ever' for Elderly Fairfax-Area Riders

August 07, 1986|TRACEY KAPLAN | Times Staff Writer

Pauline Zaid credits the Fairfax Trolley with keeping her from becoming a terrified recluse.

Instead of hiding from the world after she was mugged last month on a city bus, Zaid, 73, has been riding the trolley, which runs at 20-minute intervals through the Beverly-Fairfax area.

"We're among our own here. No one picks our pockets like they do on those crowded city buses," Zaid said recently as she settled into one of the 21 seats on the brightly painted bus that resembles a turn-of-the-century trolley. "It's the best thing that ever happened, and if they ever take it away from us, I'd be heartbroken."

Zaid is not the only senior citizen who considers the trolley a safe and convenient way to travel to such places as Farmers Market, the Beverly Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

"Without the trolley, I'd have to stay home," said Helene Neumann, 83, who rode the bus to a beauty salon on Fairfax Avenue one day last week. "I can't carry heavy stuff when I go shopping, so I make several trips a day."

400 Riders a Day

The trolley began two years ago. Of the approximately 400 people who now use the service each day, 80% are over age 60, according to Los Angeles traffic engineer Jim McLaughlin.

Youngsters who attend summer school at Fairfax High tend to avoid taking the trolley, said Cathy Ngo, 16, who rides the bus to her after-school job.

"Most kids are embarrassed to take it because older people ride it," Ngo said. "They like to be where they can be more rowdy, but I don't care what the crowd thinks. I'm over that."

It is not surprising that most of the trolley's passengers are senior citizens, because the area it serves has a high concentration of older adults, who tend to depend on public transportation more than any other group, McLaughlin said. According to the 1980 census, 40% of the people living in the area are over age 60.

Ridership increased dramatically 15 months ago when the city cut the fare to 25 cents for riders without transit passes and began letting seniors with passes ride free, McLaughlin said. The trolley is funded by the half-cent sales tax approved by county voters in 1980 as Proposition A.

McLaughlin said the trolley is such a success that the Los Angeles City Council is considering a proposal to extend the shuttle service to include Park La Brea. If the council approves the proposal, a third vehicle would be added to the service.

The trolley is popular with senior citizens in part because it cuts down on the need to make transfers, said Brian Navis, president of Pacific Busing, which operates the service under a contract with the city.

"Climbing up and down is plenty tough when you've got arthritis like I do," said William Gold, 84, a former boxer who rides the trolley every day. "This is a godsend for me." Gold said that when he wants to go to Farmers Market for an early breakfast, he has to take two buses to get there.

The trolley runs between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday in a 5-mile circular route beginning at Melrose and Fairfax avenues, looping south to 3rd Street, west to Robertson and San Vicente boulevards, north to Melrose and east back to Fairfax. Portions of the route, particularly along the southern and western perimeters, are subject to detours this summer because of construction.

"It should run on Sunday," said Sayde Thomas, 76, who was returning home from a shopping trip.

Aside from demands for increased service, most seniors have only praise for the trolley. They particularly like having "their own bus" and being treated with consideration by the drivers.

"They treat you like one of their own. It's always, 'Take care, watch your step,' and they don't drive too fast or jerk around," Zaid said as she disembarked to have dinner at the Cedars-Sinai cafeteria, where seniors receive a special discount with a voucher.

Back on the trolley after her blintzes, Zaid said she did not always have to have a goal in mind to take a ride.

"I just get on sometimes and ride it to see the sights," she said. "It's better than sitting at home."

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